What is a stroke?

A stroke — also called a “cerebrovascular accident” or “brain attack” — is a sudden interruption in blood flow in the brain. It can be due to either a blockage or a rupture in a blood vessel in or leading to the brain. The interruption deprives brain tissue in and around the affected area of the essential oxygen and nutrients carried in the blood.

Within minutes of oxygen deprivation, the sensitive cells of the brain suffer permanent damage and die. This impairs the functions that the affected areas of the brain controls – for example walking, talking, and vital functions such as breathing. Unlike many other cells in the body, brain cells cannot be replaced.

Stroke is the number four cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability among adults. Nationwide, it afflicts more than 700,000 people annually. It is a medical emergency. The term “brain attack” is used to emphasize the urgency and the need for rapid treatment similar to heart attack. Stroke is both preventable and treatable; however, time is of the essence. The faster a patient recognizes the symptoms and goes to a primary or comprehensive stroke center, the greater the options for treatment.